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Vermont Gov. Shumlin sends letter urging Congress to replenish federal transportation fund

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MONTPELIER, Vermont — Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is urging leaders in Congress to replenish the federal transportation fund so Vermont can move forward with road and bridge projects that he says are critical to job growth, public safety and the health of the state.

Shumlin sent a letter to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Wednesday saying a projected shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund could threaten the state's progress in recovering from the Great Recession.

"Without a resolution to this fiscal dilemma Vermont will not be able to fund much-needed road, bridge, rail and transit programs that are critical every year but especially this year following a particularly harsh winter. At a time when we're working hard to create jobs and grow economic opportunity, prompt Congressional action is critical," he wrote.

Meanwhile, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx this week started an eight-state bus trip to try to drum up support for congressional approval of legislation to keep federal transportation aid flowing to states for four more years, maybe longer. The Department of Transportation forecasts the funds will dry up by Aug. 29, but some federal and state officials worry it could be depleted sooner.

The state relies on the fund to match its state dollars for transportation projects. State officials are about to issue contracts for work that needs be done but they don't yet know if they'll have federal money to pay for them, Shumlin said. He estimates that every $1 million of transportation funding supports 35 jobs in Vermont, directly and through the maintenance of the state's transportation infrastructure.

Vermont has an $8 million shortfall from last winter on snow plowing, sanding and other maintenance, said Sen. Richard Mazza, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

"That's why it's so critically important that we do get the federal government to step up to the plate," he said.

The state plans $115 million in paving this year but could do more when Congress settles on a bill, he said.

"We plea to please fill the highway trust fund, make sure that we can build our projects and keep our economy growing," Deputy Transportation Secretary Sue Minter said.

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